The Sussex Coast - online book

A Literary & Historical travel guide to the Sussex Coast

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foliage appears in happiest contrast with the hartstongue ferns and ivy and grass and wild flowers that grow everywhere among the crumbling graves.
Immediately south of the church are remains of the alien Benedictine Priory, a cell of the Norman Abbey of Grestein, which was founded to look after the Sussex estates of the parent house. A crypt is vaulted in plastered chalk with stone ribs resting on corner shafts that have capitals, and on a central octagonal pillar that has none; it seems to belong to the thirteenth century. The building above has collapsed through neglect, but not through age; very strong old beams, on which now plants are rooted, rest on a late-looking corbel and on a pillar with concave sides. A Tudor gateway in ruin, mantled with ivy and wallflower, has broken turrets, one with a newel stair, and a large window with comfort­able seats. Some corbels and a ledge upheld the wooden floors. It is built of stone, chalk, brick and flint, and has been patched in later days ; one fragment has dog-tooth moulding. It was never a part of the priory, which with the other alien houses was suppressed in 1414.
But the chief feature of Wilmington is on the Down-side above, the world-famous Long Man. He grasps a staff in either hand, he is walking toward the east, his height is 230 feet. At one time the outlines were almost obliterated, and could only be made out in certain lights; they are now marked with bricks and emphasised with whiten­ing, so that he who runs may see. Nothing is known but much has been guessed as to why and by whom he was made. There is a similar but rather smaller figure at Cerne Abbas,
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